The Brothers Grimm

The Brothers Grimm

***1/2

Reviewed by: Darren Amner

It's been six years since a Terry Gilliam film graced the big screen. I wonder, has anyone waited with such eager anticipation as I?

Was it worth it? Well, Brothers Grimm is very good. In fact... it's almost great.

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Will (Matt Damon) and Jake (Heath Ledger) are conmen who travel the Napoleonic countryside vanquishing fake monsters and demons in exchange for a quick payout. However, the French authorities get hold of information about their get rich scheme and give them a choice: work for us or face the death penalty.

Soon signed up to their new masters, their first task is to contend with a real witch, who may have something to do with the disappearance of young maidens under mysterious circumstances in a local village. In a neat twist the brothers' imaginations are tested to the limit, as their fantasies become reality.

Damon and Ledger make an excellent double act and you genuinely believe they could be brothers in real life; their chemistry is that good. It's a casting coup - Damon the cad with an answer for everything and clearly more swash than buckle, with Ledger the dreamer, the quiet, sensitive type who looks at life through fairytale-tinted spectacles.

Of the others, Lena Headey, as the trapper and girl of the forest, could have been better occupied than simply someone for the brothers to fight over. I've no problem with a romantic interlude, but I'd like to have seen it followed through with a little more zest. Her character is basically a plot device.

Peter Stormare is quite funny as Cavaldi, an Italian torturer, working for the French, and his accent is hilarious, especially when he calls the brothers, Grimmy. Normally one to overact to the point of annoyance, here he is reigned in by Gilliam. Finally, we have Jonathan Pryce, as the villain. A Brit playing the bad guy? Never!

For fans of Gilliam, there is much to enjoy, such as his quirky humour and ever-present oddball supporting characters. He's always been, at least for me, a director who can get something new from his actors. As for fairytales, all your favourites receive nods, such as Little Red Riding Hood, The Gingerbread Man, Hansel And Gretel, yet with a slightly darker tone.

I love the way Gilliam lets the camera roam, the angles and the quirky shots; you never get bored watching his films. The production design by Guy Dyas is phenomenal, truly gothic-looking and the sheer size and scale is a sight to behold.

My main concern is with the script and the pacing of the film. For instance, I love the twitchy, nervous Jake and the womanising Will, but the script lacks punchy dialogue or enough comedic set pieces to keep the audience engaged. However, like with any of Gilliam's work, it will get better with repeat viewings.

So, is the film a madcap masterpiece? It's certainly enjoyable and the pairing of Damon and Ledger very appealing, yet it isn't quite the genuine Gilliam delight.

Reviewed on: 03 Nov 2005
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Bogus ghostbusters finally meet their match in a genuine enchanted forest.
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Read more The Brothers Grimm reviews:

John Gallagher ***
Anton Bitel **1/2
Angus Wolfe Murray *

Director: Terry Gilliam

Writer: Ehren Kruger

Starring: Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Monica Bellucci, Lena Headey, Peter Stormare, Jonathan Pryce

Year: 2005

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US/Czech Republic

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